HARRISONBURG, Va. – Former James Madison women’s golfer Nicole Sakamoto has qualified through the first two stages of the Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) Qualifying Tournament on to the final event, it was recently announced. LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament will be contested over 90 holes December 4-8, at the LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Top finishers in the final stage will earn 2014 LPGA membership (total number of cards TBD) and all others who make the cut will receive Symetra Tour status.
Sakamoto first played with 247 competitors at the Sectional Qualifying Tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. There, she tied for 70th to make the final cut after shooting an 8-over 296 (74-73-72-77), as the top 100 competitors advanced. From there, Sakamoto went to Venice, Fla., for the second stage at Plantation Golf and Country Club, where the top 80 and ties would move on. Through three rounds, Sakamoto was tied for 122nd at 8-over 224, but rallied with her best round in the two qualifying events with a 4-under 68 to post a 4-over 292 and tie for 56th.
“I’m very, very excited making it to the final stage,” Sakamoto said. “After the first two rounds, I knew I had to go low the next two rounds. The third round was a “boring” round, hitting greens in regulation and two putting. I had a couple of bogeys that round but brought it back with a couple of birdies. II would take a round like that any day.
“So going into the final round I was four strokes away from the cut,” she continued. “My putter was hot the whole week and after making a 20-footer on the first hole for par, I knew it was going to be the day to go low. And for the next event there’s going to be a lot better players and so there’s no room for rounds like the first. But I also learned that I can shoot low under pressure so I have that confidence going into the next stage. I’m just thankful for everyone’s support, especially my parents for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams.
“I am very proud of Nicole,” JMU Head Coach Paul Gooden said. “She is the best under-pressure putter I have ever seen. I am pulling hard for her to make it all the way. She is a great player and I know she can make it on the LPGA.”
A total of 90 players advanced on to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.at LPGA International. Among those who advanced from Stage II include Tiger Wood’s niece and Wake Forest standout Cheyenne Woods, who finished tied for 56th; China amateurs Xiyu Lin who finished tied for third, and 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Yueer Cindy Feng, who finished tied for 20th; and Belgium amateur and Stage I medalist Laura Gonzalez-Escallon, who finished tied for 80th. There are also numerous other players from the LPGA and Symetra Tours that automatically advanced on to the final stage of qualifying.
Players who complete a minimum of 72 holes at Stage III of the 2013 LPGA Qualifying Tournament who do not receive 2014 LPGA membership in Category 12 are fourth in the priority list for tournaments. Players will be ranked based on the order of their finish at Stage III (and any ties will be broken on the basis of the lowest, most recent round in Stage III).